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New book on Canada’s Indigenous peoples part history, part reconciliation how-to

June is National Indigenous History Month. Now, a new book aims to educate readers on the history, heritage, and diversity of Canada’s first peoples. It’s also a call to action.

“I kind of feel like reconciliation in this country is moving at a snail’s pace,” said Lynda Gray, author of First Nations 101: Tons of Stuff You Need to Know. This edition updates and expands upon the first.

A member of B.C.’s Ts’msyen Nation, Gray feels while much has happened since the first edition of the book came out, not much has changed.

“The Truth and Reconciliation Report came out seven years ago and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls came out three years ago. And yet, not a lot has happened since then.”

Read more: Canada’s inaction on MMIWG calls to justice a ‘national shame’: NFSC

Other developments include Canada adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as ground-penetrating radar discovering unmarked graves at residential school sites in Kamloops and other locations across the country.

“Whenever I do public talks, people say that they want to contribute to reconciliation, but they don’t know what to do. They don’t have enough knowledge, or they feel shy, or they feel fear, or they feel awkward.”

Luckily, Gray has a lot to say about reconciliation.

“You and I, in this interview right now, is an act of reconciliation,” she told CityNews. “So, it may seem like a small thing, but it really is a big thing. Because 20 years ago, nobody would have cared what an Indigenous woman had to say.”

First Nations 101 is something of a how-to, as well.

“One of the new chapters in the book is how to become a great ally,” she explained. “So, people can learn how to contribute without waiting for government.”

“First, a person can’t just declare that they’re an ally, they need to become an ally with ongoing support and action. And it really is about listening to what Indigenous people want to do and trying to help them reach their goals.”

She emphasizes one thing an ally must never do is to appropriate Indigenous culture or knowledge for their own profit.

Related article: Author looks to ‘help make reconciliation reality’ in new book

Gray says she wrote this book to reach as broad an audience as possible.

We must learn about, and understand, our shared history with Canadians and reclaim the beliefs, cultures, and traditions of our ancestors so we can live more healthy, respectful, prosperous, cultural, and interconnected lives.

“I really tried to make it accessible, short pieces of information, so that anybody can use it.”

Gray is is hopeful it will be adopted in the classroom, and may well get her wish. High school students in B.C. will be required to complete Indigenous-focused coursework before graduation, starting in the 2023-24 academic year.

The book is geared towards Indigenous peoples and allies alike.

“Being able to understand why we grew up the way that we did, and [that] we don’t have to live in poverty, and [that] we don’t have to be displaced from our homelands and our culture and our language. Because it’s very empowering once you learn this stuff. I know it was for me.”

First Nations 101: Tons of Stuff You Need to Know (Updated and Expanded 2nd Edition) is available from Adaawx Publishing.

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